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Coming in Warm: 5 Pre-Audition Obstacles and How to Overcome Them

Auditioning can be pretty wretched. Often lacking in standardization, organization, or any sort of environmental comfort to set one up for success, the process is designed to weed out the timid and unprepared (when, indeed, it is designed at all).
So the onus is on you to come in guns blazing. This is easier said than done. Below are five common obstacles to arriving properly warm to an audition, and some tips to overcoming them.

  1. Travel Fatigue. Often times we have to commute across town, or even across state lines, to reach an audition in the first place. No matter what kind of prep you’ve done before leaving the house, by the time you reach that audition location, you are going to be stone cold. Therefore, extra precautions are in order. If possible, have someone drive you to the audition so you can spend the last leg of the journey in the passenger seat, touching up makeup, reviewing material and otherwise prepping. If you’re in the driver’s seat (or on the subway or bus), bring music with you that will stimulate you emotionally. Use the last 30 minutes to listen to music, do vocal warm-ups if possible, and get yourself in the right headspace. Try to arrive early enough to take a couple minutes to breathe in your parked car, do some stretches in the parking lot or lobby or whatever space is safe and available. Make sure you stay hydrated and fed during the trip so you don’t arrive on an empty stomach and four cups of coffee.
  2. You’re Physically Cold. Whether you have a long commute or not, if you haven’t warmed up physically, you’ll be at less than your best. Make sure you’ve done a full physical and vocal warm up before leaving, so ideally on arrival, some abbreviated stretches and vocal exercises will be sufficient to remind your muscles you’re ready to work. If there’s no space in the waiting room, duck into the bathroom, or at least jump up and down a few times to get the blood flowing. Now is not the time to worry about looking awkward.
  3. Other Actors. We’re the wooooooooorst. We chat away our own nerves in the lobby, sing loudly outside the audition room, question each other to gain some last second insight, or just mill around, projecting anxiety and unfocused competitive angst. The best preparation can get thrown if you’re susceptible to the energy of other actors. Don’t get sucked in to distractions and the passive aggressive one-upmanship that plagues the waiting area. Cocoon yourself in positive preparation. Come in with earbuds firmly in place (regardless of whether or not you’re playing actual music). Find a space for yourself in the room and stick to it. If you have to, bring your material and pretend to be reviewing it. You don’t have to be rude. If you see someone you know, a quick wave, smile and polite indication that you need to prep is all any other actor should require of you. You can chat after if need be. This is your time, and don’t let anyone chip away at it. I would also recommend taking up meditation or other mental focus exercise on a regular basis. That way your mind will get in the habit of being able to shield and focus itself quickly.
  4. Lack of Preparedness. You can do everything right on the day, but if you haven’t prepared the actual material, it’s going to show. Know your stuff backwards and forwards, because when something unexpected happens (and it will) solid prep is the only thing that will save you from being thrown. Make sure you’ve performed your pieces out loud, ideally in front of multiple people and/or with multiple accompanists.
  5. Surprises and Setbacks. No matter what, there are going to be surprises. You’ll get called in as soon as you walk in the door because the person at the 10 AM slot didn’t show. You’ll take a wrong turn or won’t be able to find parking. Coffee will spill on your shirt, you’ll run into your ex unexpectedly, the person ahead of you will have the same song. Maybe you just woke up “off.” There is no way to avoid surprises, so set yourself up for success. Have water, granola bars, an extra outfit/headshots and a spare tire in your car. Come with backup pieces ready. Practice setting respectful boundaries–if someone asks you to go in early, request 5 minutes to adjust. Remember it is your job to give yourself every advantage, and that means protecting your time. Above all, work on being flexible, on meeting surprises with a positive (or at least neutral) attitude. Those who can roll with the punches are the most sustainable actors.

Be kind to yourself. Remind yourself you are resilient, and keep working at making that true. Auditions are just another part of the job. Treat them as such, so that you meet them with professionalism rather than panic. And then put some frosting on the cake and have fun.